Clothing Portfolios and Chromed-out Dirt bikes
Meet Varga Bar manager, Rich Colli, as interviewed by Steve Mashington.
Steve: How did you get started in the restaurant industry?
Rich: Porn. Gateway industry.
S: That’s what I like to hear. Were you working as catering services or…?
R: I went to school at the College of NJ. Which recently just got nominated for number one school in the Northern Hemisphere, I believe.
S: [laughing] Northern Hemisphere?
R: Outside of Mexico Northern Hemisphere.
S: The number one school in Monmouth County that is below Princeton.
R: My sister, who went to the same school, got me a job as a freshman at this little pub she was working at. Everyone else was just putzing around not knowing what to do, and I was working at the bar on campus. I just served for a shift or two and worked as what I called, a soda jerk. The next year, I took on more shifts, started bartending. Bud Ice was our top seller.
S: I wish we could order a Bud Ice right now.
S: If Lew Bryson was here, he is in spirit, what is the one question you would want him to ask you? And then I’m going to answer it as if I was you.
R: [laughing] That’s a good one. Ok. Why?
S: Because I really like pancakes and whiskey.
R: Nice…I do too.
S: There is a lack of it all over town and that dog just peed on that mailbox. Son of a bitch.
This entire interview is taking place sitting along the rail on the roof deck at Standard Tap.
S: At Varga, you guys have a pretty varied selection of beers. This is a two-part question.
R: Can I answer the second part first?
S: Yea, but I’m gonna break it down into 27 different questions, What is the most difficult…
Dirt bikes ride buy interrupting the interview, leading to a lengthy debate on why people ride dirt bikes in the city amongst other related topics, leading to…
S: So, back to the dirt bike question [there was never a dirt bike question]. What kind of dirt bike would you have?
R: I would probably have a black dirt bike with silver chrome.
S: Would you have chromies?
R: I don’t know what they are, but they sound kinda cool, so, yeah.
S: Yeah, I don’t know what they are either, but they definitely sound cool.
S: If you rode your dirt bike around, would you opt for the Darth Vader or horse mask? [Steve, completely on his own doing, decided to bring along a Darth Vader and horse head mask. He also brought a plastic gold crown, but that never made it into the discussion]
R: I’d do faceoff.
S: Would you have a duel one like the guy from Ski School where it’s like me on the front and Lew Bryson on the back? You could just ride around and laugh at people in Lew Bryson’s voice as you blow by them at red lights.
S: Back to deep penetrating questions. What is the most difficult challenge for you in picking out beers [for Varga]?
R: I don’t see it as a challenge because there are two schools of thought: I could buy stuff that’s just gonna move, it’s priced right and I know it’ll sell, and then there’s stuff that I know people will want, but it’ll sit a little bit because it’s stronger beer and a half keg. So, I think 20 lines is a great number. Our list is broken up into four groups, session golden, session dark, strong golden and strong dark, so it gives an opportunity to have the session golden beers, you get the pint, they’re 6 bucks, lots of flavors, lots of good stuff and then you can also get a double IPA that’s 11.5%, and imperial stout that’s 10%. The way our list is setup, it makes my job really easy. I need another drink.
A break is taken so they can order what is now their 4th round of Old Fashioned drinks.
S: What is the worst thing about working in this industry [craft beer retail side]? And don’t say the fucking hours
R: Honestly, you want to show a lot of love to everybody and you just physically can’t do that. You can’t buy from everyone and take everyone’s seasonal, take every single year-round you want to take. You have to choose at some point if you can support someone as much as you want, that’s probably the biggest deal
because you want to support everyone. Especially now with all these new breweries. You have all these breweries putting out some really quality stuff and you want to kinda get in on the base level, but you can’t physically give them too much.
S: With that being said, there’s a lot of new competition coming into the market and there’s a lot of inconsistent product. How do you deal with that? Do customers notice inconsistent product?
R: I don’t think the product is that inconsistent that the customer notices. I don’t think people drink it and say this isn’t the same IPA I had three months ago. I mean, if there is something wrong obviously, but in the time we’ve been at Varga, we’ve only had problems with two kegs and one I honestly think it was just way over carbonated, I don’t think it had anything to do with flavor.
S: If you could ban Rick Anstotz and Mike Lubieski [featured in the Meet the Scene Interview in September issue] from Varga Bar, where would you have them relegated to?
R: What does that even mean?
S: Imagine you’re putting Rick and Mike in a Superman type third dimension.
R: I just hear jealousy in your voice every time you ask a question like that.
S: You’re right, It’s extreme jealousy. It’s mostly because Mike is better at golf than me.
R: Yeah that’s a fact.
S: It kind pisses me off. Other than that there is no jealousy.
S: So listen, is this interview pants optional?
R: No. It’s nice. It’s cool out here. It finally became fall.
S: We can make this interview pants optional.
R: Do you want to make it pants optional? Feel free to do whatever you feel like.
S: I feel like all interviews should be pants optional.
Steve then drops his pants to reveal his never nude jean shorts to no one’s delight and leading to a conversation that takes place using exclusively hash tags
S: You’ve done a great job with a lot of different events. How do you think that makes Curt Decker feel?
S: Excellent answer.
R: I hope. I think I’m wearing his shirt, which is awesome…talk about good events. Best one in the city.
S: Royal Stumble…yeah.
R: In a city where you have a lot of great events, you have the Firkinteenth, the Royal Stumble, both so well-known.
S: (Interrupting) Smoke ‘Em If Yous Got ‘Em. I came up with that.
R: Shocking that you would want to promote that.
This leads to another excessive rant from Steve.
S: Well you guys do a lot during Philly Beer Week to separate yourselves from the crowd. Do you think there is a real trick to making a great event? Like besides just doing a meet the brewer or a tap takeover?
R: The crazy thing is, we’re doing just that. We just come up with some stupid thing that’s different that that. We did a white party and it was all imperial stouts on tap.
S: That’s smart. S.M.A.R.T. smart.
R: It’s also a great way to diversify my portfolio of clothes. I had to get white linen pants because I don’t have any white pants shockingly.
S: That is surprising.
R: It’s fun for us. It’s fun for the staff. It’s fun for everyone.
S: So we all know and love Rick Anstotz. What do you think his greatest contribution to the craft brewing industry is?
Steve answers his own question by just playing
Rick Astley’s “Never Gonna Give You Up” on his
cell phone. The rest of interview had to be edited
out due to having many more than 4 rounds of